Winnisook Mountain is a 3270’ peak that sits perched at the headwall of the Big Indian Valley. It has east and west summits with the east summit being the high point. However, not all high points are the main attraction and that’s the case with Winni. The high point straddles the Big Indian Wilderness and Winnisook Lake land boundary, so it’s on private land, just barely. The Big Indian Valley is walled by the Big Indian Wilderness to its west and the Slide Mountain Wilderness on the east. Hiking Winni and west Winni from the Slide Mountain parking area makes for a short 2-mile bushwhack. Even though it is a short hike, there are many things to excite the seasoned hiker along the way.
Winnisook Mountain relationship to other peaks
As the bird flys, Winni is about 1.1-miles to the northeast of Hemlock Mountain (3245’), 1.6-miles east of Spruce Mountain (3381’), and 1.2-miles west-north-west of the 3600’ point called Little Slide which towers over tiny Winniook Lake. Little Slide is not really considered a peak but rather a bump on one of Slide Mountains’ massive ridges. Winni’s summit proper is on private property owned by the Winnisook Club. Both Spruce and Winnisook are Catskill 67 peaks.
Winnisook Lake is owned by the Winnisook Lake Club. The lake, now technically a reservoir and was impounded in 1888. It was expanded to its current 5-acre size to support fishing for the Winnisook Club members. It is the highest lake in the Catskills at 2,664’ and is considered the headwaters of the Esopus Creek. It is named after Chief Winnisook a Native American associated with area folklore. As RT 47 passes the high point in the pass near the lake, it is the highest elevation improved public through road in the state. Given its elevation and approach from the hairpin turn below, it can make for a wild ride in the Winter!
Bushwhacking Winnisook Mountain
Your departure point will be the state parking lot for Slide Mountain on RT 47 or also known as Slide Mountain Road. Be forewarned that this and the Giant Ledge parking areas are among the busiest in the Catskills. On the day we got there (a Thursday) it was 9:30 AM and the lot had room for one vehicle. As we drove by, the Giant Ledge lot was also full. So either get an early start or have back-up plans in mind.
From the parking area take the road right (east) and walk toward the Winnisook Club. You’ll be leaving the road on the opposite side about 0.10-miles from the parking area where the state and club’s property meet. It will be marked with two state forest preserve signs and a large cornerstone marker for the club. Really, you can enter the woods before this but it simply makes the start of navigation a bit easier. Also, you’ll get to see a very lively stream on the right side of the road.
When climbing the ridge stay on the public lands. The markings for the state and club are sparse so make sure you have a map and compass or GPS. In fact, it is probably easier to angle toward the col as the terrain below the summit is ringed with small cliff lines.
As you climb you’ll cross a couple of seasonal streams, probable underground springs, which varies in the amount of water they hold. The ground is very rocky in parts and depending on your line of ascent you’ll find cool boulder fields to scramble through.
Don’t forget, in Spring to search out wildflowers that are abundant, especially as you gain the summit ridge.
Check out the rock in the area. Much of it is conglomerate which is found in the southern high peaks.
Also, spend some time looking for signs of life in strange places!
As you approach the summit you’ll find a couple of cliff bands that are easily avoided if you keep traveling left until they run out. Or if you’re the type of hiker that likes cliff scrambles, there are ways up the ledges. You’ll reach the summit at 0.90-miles from the parking area with 859’ of climbing.
Once on the airy summit of Winni like on your trip up, the ground will be very rocky and “bumpy”. Take your time and enjoy the scenery as with the trees bare one can see many peaks at various points on the summit. From the top of the cliffs looking west to northwest, you can see “West Winni”, Hemlock, Spruce, Fir, and Eagle. Big Indian is obscured by Fir. On the east side of the peak to your southwest to the southeast you can see the Wildcats, Table, and Slide Mountain. With more poking around you’ll be able to see Gaint Ledge and Panther. When the trees are leafed out, there are no views.
Wildlife is abundant here. Look down and you’ll find deer, bear, turkey tracks, and more. Also keep a keen eye for things scurrying about. As we approached the summit of Winni, a Porcupine quickly, yes quickly, climbed a tree for safety. We sat and watched it from a distance as it continued to climb the tree, but with a much slower, sloth-like movement watching us just as intently. Very cool!
Winni to West Winni
The 128’ descent from the summit to the col is quick as is the walk across the wide-open ridge connecting the summit of Winni with its western subpeak.
Some say the real prize of this hike awaits you on the west peak 0.37-miles from the summit of Winni, and 70’ climbing from the col. They may be right. As you reach the western summit, the trees become very stunted, and a large open meadow ringing with small boulders gives this place an unusual feel. It is a place to stop and enjoy the unique high elevation fern glade which it is packed with in-season.
West Winni return to Road
From the west summit, we headed WSW for a bit and avoided some steep terrain and then headed south back to the road returning to the point where we entered having dropped 770’ in 0.66-miles. On your way down take in the views of Slide, Table, and The Wildcats. Also, look back at some of the impressive rock ledges you’ll need to navigate!
Extending your hike!
One could continue their day and head to Hemlock, Spruce, and even Fir. The distance to Fir is about 2.5-miles over Hemlock and Spruce, of course, you’d also need to come back!
|Big Indian Wilderness|
|Contact Information:||DEC Region 3 New Paltz Office:
phone (845) 256-3000 (M-F 8:30AM - 4:30PM), email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Law Enforcement, Emergency & Ranger: 518-408-5850 or dial 911
|Location:||Towns of Denning, Shadaken and Hardenburgh in Ulster County|
|Map:||Big Indian Wilderness Map|
|Amenities:||Gas may be found in the nearby communities of Arkville, Fleischmanns, Livingston Manor and Pine Hill.
Food and other supplies can be found in the nearby communities of Margaretville and Livingston Manor.
Dining opportunities can be found in the nearby communities of Arkville, Big Indian, Fleischmanns, Margaretville and Pine Hill.
Lodging may be found in the nearby communities of Arkville, Big Indian, Fleischmanns, Oliverea and Pine Hill.
|Weather:||Big Indian Mountain Forecast|
|Cell Service:||Never count on your cell phone for rescue. There are many spots in the Big Indian Wilderness that service is poor.|
Map for Winnisook Mountain
Click map or here for an interactive version of the map